33 Chapters
Medium 9781574416558

“Legends of the Trail.” Folklore in Motion: Texas Travel Lore, PTFS LXIV, 2007

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Legends of the Trail

pP

[A legend is a traditional prose narrative that has a historical setting and real people as characters. It deals with extraordinary happenings, even supernatural events, in a realistic way.

Legends are folk history which document heroic or dramatic events of a culture’s life.—Abernethy]

The following happened in August of 1886 on the Camino Real de los Tejas, where the Trail crosses Onion Creek southwest of Austin.

1886 was the drouthiest year in over a generation, and the wells had dried up, and the black land on Tobe Pickett’s farm had cracks in it wide enough to swallow a jackrabbit. María, who with her husband Pablo were Tobe’s hired help, walked alongside a great wide crack on her way to cut prickly pear for the hogs. As she looked into the depths of the crack, thinking to see a trapped jackrabbit, her eyes caught the gleam of old metal. A closer look revealed a crack’swidth view of a large chest with an iron chain around it.

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Between the Cracks of History, Preface to Between the Cracks of History: Essays on Teaching and Illustrating Folklore. PTFS LV, 1997

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Between the Cracks of History

[the Preface to Between the Cracks of History: Essays on

Teaching and Illustrating Folklore, PTFS LV, 1997]

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I wonder if folklorists follow historians like gleaners—or cotton strippers in west Texas—and collect the leavings from academic historians, all the tales and songs and traditions that the historians allow to fall between the cracks? Or that historians sweep under the rug? Or drop? Or choose to ignore?

Historians research, document, and file the facts of a happening. They are supposed to get the details right, but sometimes in following the letter of the investigation, they lose the spirit—which falls between the cracks of history where it is pounced on by the ever-lurking folklorist, who scarfs it up like a hog on a mushmelon.

Maybe its not just historians who let pouncable things fall between the cracks. Maybe folklorists follow doctors around for their droppin’s and leavin’s, and find out that urine relieves bull nettle burn and that tobacco eases the pain of a yellow-jacket sting and that chicken soup is as good for the flu as anything doctors prescribe. And maybe folklorists follow wildlife biologists and conclude that if they hear an owl hoot in the daytime, that owl is watching a buck walking. I hold firmly to that latter belief, by the way, and when the owl hoots I can see vividly in my mind’s eye a big, old mossy-horned buck easing his way through a pine thicket.

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“Rural Customs in ‘The Specialist.’” Paper Presented at the Seventieth Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, Jefferson Texas, March 28, 1986

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Rural Customs in “The Specialist”

[Paper presented at the Seventieth Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, Jefferson Texas,

March 28, 1986]

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Periodically I stumble across an old piece of vaudeville-style humor bogged down in the morass of my office files under the “Miscellaneous” label. I always discover it with pleasure and surprise, as if

I’ve found an old friend of my youth. It is Chic Sale’s classic “The

Specialist,” and I read it again with laughter and run off copies to send around to my friends, some of whom remind me that I sent them copies on my last discovery. “The Specialist” is two-generations-old outhouse humor, so a truly appreciative audience, one with first-hand experience with this venerable institution, becomes increasingly hard to find.

One reason for my continuing enjoyment of this semi-scatalogical outhouse humor is that it was an indelible part of my own growing up, not only because it was there that I first discovered strange and what turned out to be everlasting internal murmurings as I studied the ladies’ underwear section in the Sears & Roebuck Catalog, but as it figured in other dramatic incidents during what I considered then to be very uneventful times.

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“When You Call Me That, Smile! or Folklore, Ethology, and Communication.” T for Texas: A State Full of Folklore, PTFS XLIV, 1982

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

When You Call Me That, Smile!

Or Folklore, Ethology, and Communication

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It was now the Virginian’s turn to bet or throw in his cards, and he did not speak at once.

Therefore Trampas spoke. “Your bet, you son of a _______!”

The Virginian’s pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas: “When you call me that, smile!”

The Virginian by Owen Wister

The basic premise for this paper is that much of folklore is a cultural response to genetically implanted behavior patterns which man holds in common with all his animal kinsmen, and that communication is one form of this folklore.

The Ethological Approach

Our physiological kinship with the rest of the animal kingdom is amply supported by a study of evolution and comparative anatomy. Our behavioral relationship, the study of which is ethology, is equally supported by an observation of the basic drives or instincts that most animals hold in common—those of sociality, dominance, territoriality, and sexuality. Man’s folklore is his cultural response to these drives. For example, the customs and traditions and religious beliefs which a group holds in common enforce the sociality drive, or herding instinct, and bind them together in a strong, survivable unit. The dominance drive for the establishment of a pecking order is illustrated in all folk contests and in folk tales of Hercules and

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“The Ethological Approach to Folklore.” Paisanos: A Folklore Miscellany, PTFS XLI, 1978

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

The Ethological Approach to Folklore

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Evolution, comparative anatomy, fetal development, and parallel physical reactions all indicate man’s physical relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. Ethology is the study of our behavioral relationship. That is, not only are all animals constructed on the same general pattern, but they also act alike and from the same motives.

Everything for animals begins and ends with the food chain and with the problems of getting enough to eat. Animal behavior patterns are genetically selected to insure the group of fish, lizards, crows, monkeys, or men of having no more members than it can provide for over a long period of time and of maintaining these numbers in stable harmony. Folklore is one result of these genetically transmitted behavior patterns which man inherits from and holds in common with his animal ancestors. These behavior patterns—particularly sociality, territoriality, dominance, and sexuality—are modified by thought processes to fit the survival margin of his environment and are transmitted to the social group by symbolic language and example. The results are traditions and folklore which the society establishes in order to promote a stable social union.

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